Archaeology conducted at sites of labor offers the possibility for new modes of historical inquiry. As a method of recovering unrecorded aspects of the past, archaeology provides a vital set of tools for understanding the everyday lives of peripheralized laborers, immigrants, and working-class communities. As both a material science and a social science, it opens this history up to new research questions. Furthermore, the tactile quality of material evidence recovered through archaeology affords researchers new ways to engage public audiences on a variety of levels. The National Park Service’s Labor Archeology of the Industrial Era National Historic Landmark Theme Study offers one framework and context for assessing the significance and integrity of the nation’s sites of labor. Public archaeology projects, such as the Lattimer Archaeology Project in Lattimer, Pennsylvania, on the site of an immigrant shantytown that witnessed a notorious labor massacre, represent another example of the literal and figurative excavation of labor and working-class history. Performed in collaboration local stakeholders, the project used the tools of archaeology and material culture to link historical oppression to present-day injustices in one postindustrial community.
“Excavating Labor History”: Exploring Class Struggle through Archaeology and Material Culture
MICHAEL P. ROLLER, PhD, is a historical archaeologist working in the areas of labor, industry, immigration, and modern material culture. His recent book, , on Italian immigration to a coal company town in northeastern Pennsylvania, was published in 2018. He currently works as an archaeologist for the National Park Service.
Michael P. Roller; “Excavating Labor History”: Exploring Class Struggle through Archaeology and Material Culture. Labor 1 March 2020; 17 (1): 25–43. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7962780
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